June 26, 2011

Morning in New York

I love New York! It is an urban jungle in a way that no other city personifies that idea. It is a place where you walk down the street and see customs and cultures from all over the world as well as all types of personalities.

One morning on a recent trip I walked three blocks from where I was staying to a neighborhood bakery to get a pastry for breakfast. In the course of that short block I passed women with babies in strollers, people rushing to work, maintenance workers hosing down the sidewalks, a woman signing, and two homeless men arguing over which one of them smelled like a skunk.

Yes, this is New York, a metropolis like no other. It is hectic, it is loud, and it is alive. And it is a city filled with good food!

When I arrived at the bakery I purchased a cream cheese current current brioche and headed back out onto the streets. This is another thing I love about New York - people eat on the streets. It is not like Paris where it can be assumed you are a tourist if you are seen walking down a street drinking a coffee or munching on a pastry. People in New York are constantly in motion - there is an energy here. People are wide awake.

New York City Street
So, I joined the crowd and headed back from whence I came, brioche in hand. On my way back I passed children going to school, people going to work, doormen hosing down the sidewalk in front of the buildings where they work. And I was just one person - among the swarm of humanity on the streets that morning - walking alone in the sunshine.

June 22, 2011

Discovering Café Divan

One of the benefits of living in Washington DC is Rock Creek Park. It is a ribbon of forest that winds it's way through the District of Columbia giving residents a chance to

After spending a steamy DC morning wandering around Rock Creek Park my aunt and I ended up walking down Wisconsin Avenue in search of lunch. We were tempted to go to 2 Amys since it is one of our favorite places in DC but opted to try something new. We walked past the cafes in Glover Park and ended up at Café Divan.

This Turkish cafe is located in a wedge shaped building on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue. There are windows on both sides of the building and the interior is bright and cheery. Once since the cafe we were seated by the window facing Wisconsin Avenue.

After reviewing the menu we decided to share several appetizers. We ordered hommus, artichokes, calamari, and a red lentil dish. After we ordered our water brought us a basket of delicious warm bread. Soon after our food began arriving. The first dish that arrived was the artichoke (zeytinyagi enginar) and then the calamari. Soon after the hummos and lentil dish was delivered to our table. Everything was really good - and a wonderful reward after our hike around the park. My favorite dish was the red lentils. They were served in the form of patties and very flavorful.

red lentils
I love Turkish food. When I worked as a pilot I had the opportunity to fly to Turkey a few times and would enjoyed getting a small glimpse into that country and it’s cuisine. When I lived in San Francisco I enjoyed eating at Troya in the Sunset neighborhood. After we moved to Washington DC I was delighted to find Ezmè and now I am happy to have discovered Café Divan too!

June 19, 2011

Stark - Two Ways

A white statue of a tree in grounds of the Swiss Embassy in black and white...

...and in color.

Washington, District of Columbia

June 16, 2011

Pasta in the Penn Quarter

It was the last day of May and the weather in Washington DC was sweltering - 100º F and humid. As I walked from my office to Fiola the heat seemed to be draining my energy and resolve to continue the journey. Upon arriving at the restaurant I met my aunt and we were seated at our table relieved to be back inside air conditioning.

The interior design at this restaurant was confusing to me. Several elements fit nicely with the space and complimented the atmosphere and food, however others seemed to stand out in an ostentatious way. I loved the wall with stones and windows allowing diners to catch a glimpse into the kitchen. I also liked the chandeliers made of clear glass globes. However, I did not like the pillars filled with gold leaves or the etched glass door.

But, enough about the design, there are more important topics to discuss - food and wine. After pouring over the menu for what I am sure the waiter thought was an eternity, we selected two appetizers and two pastas to share. We also each selected a different type of wine to try by the glass.

Before our food began arriving we were served our wine and bread. Both of our wines were lovely - a Primitivo and an Oregon Pinot Noir. And the bread was fantastic! Difficult to exactly explain, but we were each served a small round roll. But, even to call it a roll is misleading, it was light and fluffy like a croissant with flavors of sea salt and olive oil.

As we were enjoying our fantastic fluffy rolls the waiter delivered our appetizers. We had decided to share a chilled asparagus soup with lobster and an arugula salad with pecorino cheese and lemon dressing. Both were great! The soup was creaming and cooling without being heavy - perfect for a muggy day in the district. The salad was also were good.

Next we were served my favorite course, the pasta. Again we shared two dishes, a papperdeli with mushrooms and lobster ravioli. I tried the papperdeli first and instantly decided that would be my favorite, that was until I tried the ravioli... The papperdeli was made out of chickpea flour and was served with trumpet and morrel mushroom with an earthy mushroom sauce. The ravioli was delicate and had a delicious ginger sauce.

Of course the end to a perfect meal is always sweets. To continue the trend my aunt and I shared two desserts - bomboloni with lemon cream and gianduja cake. Bomboloni are an Italian fried pastry. These particular ones were made with ricotta and were fluffy and perfectly delicious. The gianduja cake had the same rich chocolate and nut flavor of gianduja chocolates and was creamy and light in texture. In addition to these desserts, the waiter also brought each a complimentary plate of three little cookies. There was a shortbread cooking, a chocolate cookie with cream, and the tiniest French macaroon. These were all good, however, bomboloni won my heart!

All the food we had at Fiola was sophisticated, delicious and beautifully presented. (And definitely food worth walking through 100º F heat for...) But, like many of the Italian restaurants in downtown Washington, the prices at Fiola necessitate dining here only for treats or special occasions. (That is, unless you have an expense account.)

June 8, 2011

My Favorite Travel Indulgence...

This is my first post of this kind. As many of my readers know, in addition to writing for my blog here for the past several months I have also been writing posts for The Travel Belles. This has been a wonderful experience, I have been able to write more about two of my favorite topics (travel and chocolate), and I have met some wonderful women who share my passions of exploring the world and blogging. Recently the founder of The Travel Belles, Margo Millure, suggested that each month we all blog about one question and then link our posts through her website. This series will be called Across the Cafe Table. I hope you enjoy these posts and go over to The Travel Belles website and read the posts by the other belles!

So, this is the first month and here is the question all The Travel Belles are blogging about is this:


So, what is my secret travel indulgence? It’s really more of a favorite indulgence than a secret one, but that probably doesn’t really matter!

I have always loved the ritual of afternoon tea service. I love the air of luxury and the pageantry of the experience - the lavish tea rooms, the delicate tea cups and pots, and (of course) the towers of finger sandwiches and treats. Going to high tea at nice hotel is definitely my favorite travel indulgence.

At home I rarely go out for afternoon tea, instead I will make a pot at home or grab a cup at a coffee shop or cafe. But, somehow when I am in some far-flung area of the world it seems like the perfect thing to do. In addition, after walking all over a foreign city taking photographs, shopping for local specialities, looking at architecture, and visiting museums or other points of interest settling into the luxury of the experience of afternoon tea seems almost a necessity.

This has been an obsession of mine since I began traveling to Europe over 15 years ago and I have since sought out this experience on other continents as well.

Unlike you might have guessed, this obsession did not begin on a trip to England. Instead it began on a cold rainy afternoon in Frankfurt. I had spent the most of the day exploring the wet streets almost completely alone. Even the stray animals were smart enough to be inside. Eventually my cold feet convinced to go inside and have afternoon tea.

So, I stopped at a hotel downtown. The lobby bar was mostly empty but the staff was happy to serve me tea and pastries. As I sat there relaxing, drinking my tea, munching on sweets, and staring out the window my feet stopped aching and the cold chill disappeared.

Tea and Pastries at Ladurée in Paris, France

Since that day, I have enjoyed relaxing over afternoon tea in cities in England, France, Spain, Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Hong Kong, and my home country, the United States. It is the little luxury I like to splurge on while traveling.

Teapot and Fruit Cake at the Boston Tea Party in Bath, England

Read more Across the Cafe Table posts at The Travel Belles website!

June 4, 2011

Korean Dumplings in DC

It has taken me a while to learn to appreciate Korean food and I am by no mean an expert on the subject. However, it is one of my husband’s favorite cuisines so we recently decided to try Mandu Restaurant on 18th Street near Dupont Circle.

The restaurant is larger than it first appears with upstairs and downstairs dining rooms, a bar, and seating on the patio in warm weather. The atmosphere is hip and trendy and the service is excellent.

The restaurant’s namesake, Mandu are dumplings and we ordered some pan-fried dumplings to start. For a main course I got seafood jeon and Jonathan had bulgogi. The food was served very promptly here. The first thing the waiter brought to our table were the banchan (small dishes of food to go with our meal). In this case the banchan were tofu, pickled cucumbers, bean sprouts, spiced fish cake, and kimchi. We started trying the different tastes treats while we waited for our dumplings. These were by far my favorite part of the meal. My jeon was also good. On the menu it was described as small seafood pancakes, however, I think a more accurate description would be to call it a seafood omelet. That said, it was very good and consisted of shrimp and white fish that were coated in egg and pan-fried. Jonathan thoroughly enjoyed his bulgogi (grilled beef) and was delighted to be eating one of his favorite types of food.

This is not a truly classic Korean restaurant. However, it is not quite a fusion restaurant either. I noticed individual on Yelp describe the food at Mandu as Korean with an American accent. It is very good and close to authentic Korean cuisine, adjusted just a little for American tastes.

June 1, 2011